For years, Floriana has stood in the middle – but not in a good way. It’s on your way to somewhere else: a two-traffic-lights stop through St Anne Street on your way to Valletta; a roundabout way to go to Ħamrun; a detour to Sliema; and a stop-and-go then downhill to Ta’ Xbiex and Pieta.
Indeed, for many, Floriana is one long arched avenue – St Anne Street – that stretches from the baroque Lion Fountain to the War Memorial, and not much else. And most see it from behind the windows of a car.
Yet in these past months – also thanks to the spillover from Valletta’s recent status as European Capital of Culture and the capital’s rehabilitated and booming property market – Floriana has been climbing up the property ladder. Its stock of office spaces is increasing – also thanks to the town’s vicinity to Valletta’s administrative status – its rental properties are going up and more buyers are seriously considering it as a home.
A quick pause-and-rewind to the history of Borgo Vilhena shows that even if the town was planned to further protect the new capital of Valletta from attack, Floriana has its generous share of history, culture and green spaces, with an impressive count of 15 gardens, each blossoming with its own identity.
Built between 1634 and 1721 by Grand Master Antoine De Paule under the direction of Italian military engineer Pietro Paolo Floriani. Construction started with the Floriana Lines – an outer defensive line for Valletta – and these were partially defensible by 1640. Construction and modifications continued throughout the following century.
Then in 1724, the area between the Floriana Lines and Valletta began to be built up, when Grand Master Manoel de Vilhena founded the suburb Borgo Vilhena.
The foundation of the suburb meant that for the following decades, layer upon layer of culture and heritage started being added to Floriana’s arsenal – from the dominant parish church dedicated to St Publius and the peaceful Friary of the Capuchin Fathers to the granaries, which are the largest square on the island, Sarria Chapel, buildings basking in the view of Grand Harbour, and Floriana’s 15 gardens, which impressively occupy almost half of the town’s area.
It may be small – the town only has some 2,500 inhabitants – but Floriana has some big credentials: the largest square in Malta, the largest number of public gardens anywhere in Malta, and it has written important chapters in Malta’s political, social and sporting history.
Such a concentration of historical, cultural and architectural wealth – together with an increasingly interesting menu of bars, cafes and restaurants – are finally being rediscovered. In fact, Floriana has in recent months established itself as one of Malta’s hottest property markets, with prices rising faster than the island’s average. High demand from buyers and people wanting to rent in Floriana is driving up prices and popularity.
And the town is enjoying its moment because, after years of standing in Valletta’s shadow, it has finally opened its gates.
Photos: Chris Sant Fournier.
This feature first appeared in the Perry Magazine, published by Allied Newspapers in collaboration with Perry Estate Agents. It is available from all Perry branches and key locations including the arrivals lounge at Malta International Airport. For more information visit https://www.perry.com.mt/
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